CCV church leaders resign amid spiritual abuse probe

Senior pastors of a large County Londonderry church have resigned.

It comes amid a church-led investigation into allegations including “spiritual abuse” and “narcissistic behaviour”.

A statement read out at Causeway Coast Vineyard (CCV) on Sunday said that Neil and Janet Young’s future as pastors was “untenable”.

The Youngs have said they “no longer support” the ongoing investigation, according to the church.

The allegations primarily relate to Alan Scott, a senior pastor at CCV for almost two decades until June 2017.

But Neil Young had also previously apologised in July “for any of his actions that have caused pain.”

‘Narcissistic behaviour’

The findings of the independent investigation are due to be published by the church on Sunday 5 November.

However, according to the latest CCV statement read on Sunday, Neil and Janet Young have indicated “that they no longer support the ongoing independent review process”.

Causeway Coast Vineyard (CCV) is an evangelical church based in Coleraine and has about 1,400 members.

There are 120 Vineyard churches in the UK and Ireland and more than 1,500 worldwide.

Pastor Alan Scott
Image caption, Pastor Alan Scott, who now leads Dwelling Place Anaheim, has not responded to requests for comment

Pastor Scott now leads Dwelling Place Anaheim, a church which recently disaffiliated from the Vineyard USA movement.

In February, CCV and the national body Vineyard Churches UK and Ireland (VCUKI) commissioned an independent review after concerns were raised about Alan Scott’s “conduct in the US and from his time in the UK”.

A statement on its interim findings was read out at a Sunday service at the Coleraine church on 2 July.

It identified “manipulation, inappropriate comments, narcissistic behaviour, and certain occurrences of public shaming and spiritual abuse”.

CCV said that the allegations “primarily” related to Alan Scott, but said he “did not respond” when they were put to him.

BBC News NI also previously contacted Alan Scott via Dwelling Place Anaheim to ask if he had any comment to make regarding the allegations against him or the ongoing review but did not receive a response.

‘Hurt by leadership’

On 2 July the church apologised “to all those who were hurt, harmed, mistreated or in any way negatively impacted by their time at Causeway Coast Vineyard”.

Neil and Janet Young had also offered an apology on 2 July “to anyone who has been hurt by leadership at Causeway Coast Vineyard”.

Neil Young said he was “so sorry for any of his actions that have caused pain or meant that anyone has had a negative experience at this church”.

But on Sunday 29 October, those attending morning service at CCV were read an updated agreed statement by Karise Hutchinson, one of the trustees of Causeway Coast Vineyard.

She said that Neil and Janet Young no longer supported “that statement released in July” or “the ongoing independent review process”.

“They have also indicated that they can no longer submit to the spiritual and structural authority of Vineyard Churches UK and Ireland and also the governance of the Trustee Board,” Ms Hutchinson added.

“In light of this, their future as senior pastors of this church is untenable and Neil and Janet have come to the very sad conclusion that they need to resign.”

‘So much sadness’

By contrast, Ms Hutchinson said there was “full support for the independent review” from the leadership of both CCV and VCUKI.

“There have been many, many lengthy conversations between Neil and Janet, our senior leadership team and the trustees and our national Vineyard leadership,” Ms Hutchinson said.

“We have tried really hard to find a way forward, please know that,” she continued.

“The natural conclusion is that this decision is best for everyone, painful as it is, and so their resignation has been accepted.”

The foyer of the church building in Coleraine
Image caption, The foyer of the church building in Coleraine

She also expressed sadness and said that the leadership of Neil and Janet Young had been “treasured”.

“They will be deeply missed and we are thankful for their leadership of our church community for the last six and half years,” she said.

“There is so much sadness in this moment.”

‘Difficult, complex time’

Ms Hutchinson also said that the conclusion of the review would be “an important step in moving us forward as a church community”.

Its findings are due to be released on Sunday 5 November but the church is to hold an internal meeting – “a church family gathering” – about the review on Thursday 2 November.

After Ms Hutchinson read the agreed statement, Ricky Wright – a member of the CCV senior leadership team – said it had been hoped that Neil and Janet Young would attend the church on Sunday to be “thanked” and “honoured” for their leadership.

“I’m really sorry that we were all unable to find a way of doing that,” Mr Wright said.

“I’m sure you can understand this is a very difficult time, there’s a lot of complexity around that, but I’m sad that wasn’t possible.”

Both CCV and VCUKI said they would not be making any further comment beyond that said in the church.

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